Lithuania - Participation in School Decision Making in Lithuania - Teachers, Parents and the Community

Since ‘rebirth’ the reform of the educational system has clearly been based upon the experience of the pre-war Lithuanian democratic educational system as well as upon the achievements and practice of different European educational systems. This process was embodied within the General Concept of Education and the key principles guiding subsequent school reforms included:

With such principles now transforming the national system it is clearly no longer necessary for the Principal/School Director to be a member of the communist party. At the same time the activities of school life have been increasingly depoliticised. Political youth movements such as the Young Pioneers and Komsomol no longer exist and there is no obvious attempt to undermine or prohibit the influence and work of religious groups and their beliefs. In contrast to earlier centralisation there has also been a significant move towards self rule. School staff, representatives of the community and parents themselves are all encouraged to participate in making decisions which will affect the life and work of their school. Participative decision making has, in fact, become much more evident in a process of decentralisation and increased autonomy which is now transforming the whole school system.

1.1 Changes in local administration

Within a four stage programme announced for change and development the process of devolved decision making has indeed been prominent. At the time of writing the national administration of education includes Ministerial, Regional and District authorities. It is within the broad frameworks established by these bodies that school decision making is made. Below the national level the former administrative districts have been reorganised and, since 1995, decision making has been devolved to a self governing Apskritis (or regional authority). Currently there are 10 such Apskritis, with their centres located in the major cities of Lithuania, viz.: Alytaus, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Marijampole, Panevezys, Siauliai, Taurage, Telsiai, Utena, Vilnius. Each regional authority has its own governor, administration and a Department of Education. In effect the regional governor has considerable authority both in terms of implementing state policy and also in reacting to local priorities and needs. His responsibilities include a duty to:

  1. implement state policy in social welfare, education, culture, health care, territorial planning, and to carry out the state and inter regional programmes in the Apskritis;
  2. co-ordinate the activities of the structural units of ministries and other governmental institutions in the Apskritis, co-ordinate the activities of local governmental institutions in terms of the implementation of regional programmes;
  3. consider priorities for the development of the Apskritis and to develop programmes.

Accountable to the governor is a senior co-ordinator responsible for educational matters. When a secondary school director is appointed (or dismissed) the regional department of education must co-ordinate this process both with the regional governor and also with the Ministry.

In turn the regional authorities are administratively divided into savivaldybe and seniunija (local councils) and many councils are supporting moves towards increased decision making and autonomy for the regions and districts. Such optimism may well be tempered by reality, particularly as some local authorities and many of the rural districts are impoverished in the extreme.

2.1 Relationship between the local and central government

The new changes in the law of Education have foreseen the relationship between the regional Apskritis governor and the local savivaldybe.

The Apskritis governor/manager:

The Savivaldybe authorities:

3.1 School Directors - Recruitment, roles and responsibilities

In contract to Soviet times school directors are no longer guided and chaperoned by party committees or komsomol leaders and can make important decisions about school problems, future plans and details of the curriculum.

Starting from the year 2000 school directors will be elected in a new way. They will have to undergo an open competition, to present their own programme and the plan for a future development of the school, its curriculum and its future vision. The winner will have the right to be appointed to the post of a school director, under the approval of the council of savivaldybe. Such public competitions or competitive selection for one or another post are very popular nowadays here.

The school director is now considered to be one of the best and most experienced members of staff and will have at least five years successful teaching. He/she is expected to attend courses, have a record of excellent professional experience and to provide evidence of professional leadership and initiative. As already noted the school director is also expected to encourage a participative and democratic ethos in the school and to display leadership qualities in relation to the school plan and its development.

In the developing context of participative management he/she is also accountable to school boards and teachers’ councils and is expected to stimulate good school-community links and intercommunication. Indeed, the task of being a school director increasingly requires professional excellence, leadership skills, and diplomacy. Amongst his/her duties are the requirements to -

A new version of the Requirements of the Schools of General Education of Lithuania (published in 1996) added yet further responsibilities to the task of the school director and underlined the growing importance of maintaining good school-community links and liaison. For this the school director must:

The activities of School Boards and Staff Councils are described below. In particular the School Board has the right to approve the school working plan for the academic year and to take part in the discussions related to the problems of teachers and students, teaching and learning, extra curricular activities and so on. One difficulty however, is that many parents (and sometimes students) still remain passive onlookers to such change and show little initiative either in terms of attending phenomenon noticeable in some other countries and, as elsewhere, the degree of participation will depend both upon the issues and priorities under discussion, and also upon the kind of relationship that exists between the School Director and the School Board.

4.1 School Boards

The process of decentralisation and local accountability now enables individual school director and others to make decisions and set priorities in terms of their own specific location and needs. In this process the teaching staff, together with the School Board and the Students’ Board, have been accorded certain rights and responsibilities. Every secondary school has a School Board to which 7-8 of its members are elected from amongst the teachers, together with a similar number of parents and others from the community around the school. The Chairman of the Board will normally be elected from amongst the members. Additionally the students themselves can elect 5-6 representatives to the students’ board, a body which can sometimes be included in the School Board itself and is generally concerned with supporting and promoting the activities of students attending the school.

The School Board, together with the Teachers’ Council, can now make decisions on issues important to the functioning of the school. These may include the maintenance of good relations between the school and parents, the education of the students, extra curricular work and cultural activities. The Board will also take an active part in decisions about the appointment (and dismissal) of teachers, will help the school in terms of finding financial support, and has the right to give its suggestions and recommendations to the School Director regarding matters related to school rules and regulations and to student discipline and behaviour. In a situation where only limited financial resources are available for maintenance, parents are encouraged to help with painting of walls, renewing curtains and preparing classrooms for the new school year. Sometimes an enterprising School Director might hire out the school premises to various groups or associations, but he/she is required to pay about 30% of any income received to the state.

5.1 The Teachers’ Council/Staff Board

Finally evidence of participatory management is further provided by the Teachers’ Council or Staff Board. Such a council must be formed if there are more than three teachers working at the school and will consist of the School Director (acting as Head of the Board), representatives of the teaching staff, and specialists such as the school doctor, psychologist and librarian.

The council has the right to:

Alexander Dicpetris